Ronald Koeman’s time at Barcelona received incredibly mixed reviews over the course of the piece. Yet one thing it’s hard to reproach the Dutch manager for is his record of giving chances to younger players.
No player stands out as a better example of that than Pedri Gonzalez. The teenage sensation has quickly asserted himself as key not only for his club but also his country at Euro 2020.
According to Koeman, it was clear to see he was on that path from very early on.
“In Pedri’s case, it was impressive because I remember when I signed the contract with Barca and they spoke to me about him, I didn’t know him. In the first two training sessions I knew he was going to be a great player. I saw enough from Pedri in two training sessions.”
Koeman made the comments at an event with AK Coaches World, with Sport carrying his words. Koeman also claimed credit for keeping Pedri at Barcelona, when many clubs might have allowed him to leave on loan.
“In that preseason I said that we had to leave him in the first team because Barca had offers for to play elsewhere for a year. But I said ‘Pedri doesn’t move from here, because I think in a short time he will be a starter.’ And that’s how it was.”
Koeman gave chances to a number of youngsters during his time at the club, including Nico Gonzalez, Oscar Mingueza and Gavi. The criticism was always the lack of opportunities for Riqui Puig, but following Xavi Hernandez’s reluctance to play him, it appears he has proven the rule rather than the exception on him.
While Pedri’s talent obviously sets him apart, Koeman’s blooding of youngsters might be the strongest part of his performance as Barcelona manager.